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Gymnastics: More than a sport, a way of life

by Alyssa Daley-Executive Editor
Wed, Feb 8th 2017 06:00 pm
Photos courtesy of Brockport Athletic Communications via Flickr
Photos courtesy of Brockport Athletic Communications via Flickr

  Life as a gymnast is a hard endeavor to embark on and for many the journey begins around the age of five if not younger. The building and maintaining of strength, speed and grace have the average gymnast practicing around 30 hours a week, according to usagym.org. For the flying Brockport Golden Eagles this season has been filled with success as the team lays claim to an overall season record of eight wins and zero losses while just this past week two of our student-athletes, senior Jen Sklenar and sophomore Candis Kowalik sweep the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association's (NCGA) East Gymnast of the Week Honors as listed on d3ncga.org.

In light of the team's success the ladies who have proven that they own the floor and the air as they excel in all of the events from vault to beam shared a little bit of what it's like to be a Golden Eagle gymnast.

For senior Marla Thomas gymnastics isn't just a part of her life but the entirety of it.

"This sport has become my life," Thomas wrote in an email. "It has taught me life lessons, good habits, and is really a main reason of who I am today. This sport is what I live for even though sometimes it is a love hate relationship. The day I have to say goodbye won't be easy, but my next chapter would never be able to start if it wasn't for gymnastics being my introduction."

As student-athletes the young women on the team have a schedule that includes class, practice, work, eating and the occasional call home. Every day of the week brings yet another practice, meet or discussion on gymnastics there is never a period where the girls wonder if what they are doing is meant to be.

By this point the Golden Eagles have pointed their toes and risen to the challenge.

When it comes to meets the Golden Eagles come together as a team to support one another through each of their individual events. The adrenaline and sense of family that courses through each woman's veins on these days is a part of what makes all their high-flying, gravity defying skills worthwhile.

"I'm never afraid of what "might" happen," Thomas wrote about her feelings before running towards the vault or swinging her leg up onto the beam. "I've been prepared to be placed in that spot and wouldn't be there if my coaches didn't believe in me or felt like I was ready. Do I get nervous? Of course! Most athletes do but that's what makes us human."

As a gymnast there are certain items always on hand whether it be in a backpack or gym bag.

For Sklenar there are four essentials that she never leaves her room without.

"My leotards, grips, wrist guards, and my lucky eye glitter I wear every meet [are always in my gym bag]," Sklenar said.

No matter what bystanders may believe gymnastics is just as much a team sport as it is an individual. The gymnasts may be performing their respective events on their own but their teammates are always there cheering them on on the sidelines.

"I'm that crazy person that is doing the routine with my teammates on the side," Thomas wrote. "Every handstand, every double back, every landing I do it with them on the side. I am a loud person so cheering is my specialty when I'm not performing. I get just as nervous and excited for them when they perform and make it as I do for myself."

The team has about thirty women on the roster, each with their own specialties and yet for most of them the first thing that races through their minds when they wake up on mornings when there's a home meet is that "it's show time." The College at Brockport has been known for its gymnastics athletic program for years bringing girls from all over to compete here as a Golden Eagle. When asked every single gymnast on the Brockport team would respond that they have zero regrets about their time competing suited up in green and gold.

What might be one of the most impressive qualities of the gymnastics team is that they not only excel in the athletic community on campus but also in the academic sectors. The women understand theat they are not just athletes but student-athletes and many like Sklenar have big dreams after they walk across the stage in May.

"My goal is to have a nursing job that I love and loving life wherever it takes me," Sklenar said.

For now though the team is looking to continue using its strength and prowess to dominate this season.


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